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Palos Pediatric Dentistry

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Infant Oral Health

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If you are looking for a new dental office for your child, you probably have a lot of questions about which office is right for your family. We understand! At Palos Pediatric Dentistry, we know that your little one is number one in your life, so Dr. Richard Facko has made a commitment that they are number one with us, as well.

Here is a list of some of the most commonly asked questions we hear in our pediatric dental office. We know this list does not include all of the questions you might have, so we encourage you to give us a call at our Palos Heights pediatric dental office to discuss your individual needs.

Infant Oral Health

Babies first tooth | Palos Pediatric Dentistry

baby | Dentist for Babies Palos Heights

The first year as a parent is one of the most exciting times in anyone's life. It's easy to see why many times people forget that when the first tooth comes in, a lifetime of oral health is just beginning. Those early days, months, and years help to build a solid foundation of healthy habits that will last a lifetime. Our focus at Palos Pediatric Dentistry, PC is to start with healthy habits from the beginning, so that all children can enjoy a lifetime of oral health.

Don't overlook finding a dentist who is specially trained to care for your young child's unique dental needs. Richard Facko, DDS, is an American Board Certified Pediatric Dentist and is excited to share with you some tips to keep your baby's teeth healthy!

When should I take my child to the dentist for the first check-up?

We recommend a child's first dental visit by their first birthday. While many parents can't imagine what a dentist could possibly do with an infant, we strongly believe that this is one of the most important dental visits in your child's life. During this first visit, in addition to addressing any specific concerns you may have, we will:

  • Clean your baby's teeth (at this age, a thorough toothbrush cleaning is sufficient)
  • Examine your baby's mouth, and provide information about dental development
  • Apply fluoride, a protective coating to help prevent cavities Demonstrate how to properly clean your baby's teeth and gums
  • Discuss your baby's dietary habits- it's much easier to start off with a tooth-healthy diet than to have to make changes late
  • Provide information about what to expect with your baby's dental development in the future
  • Discuss trauma prevention, and what to do in case of an emergency If we start early and establish good habits at home, we can avoid problems in the future, ensuring that your child grows up with positive dental experiences and saving money on expensive dental treatment!

Dentist Dr. Facko giving a child a dental exam

What is the difference between a pediatric dentist and a family dentist?

While some families choose to bring their babies and infants to their family doctor, the majority prefer that their child sees someone who specializes in health care for children. Pediatric dentists are the pediatricians of dentistry. We are sensitive to the unique needs of children, and our practice is limited to children and adolescents. A pediatric dentist has two to three years of specialty training following dental school, including advanced training for children with special healthcare needs and with extensive dental needs.

Are baby teeth really that important to my child?

Your child's "baby" teeth are very important! They help your child speak clearly and chew nutritious foods. Primary teeth also provide a path for permanent teeth to follow when they erupt. Studies show that children with healthy teeth are more likely to grow up into adults with healthy teeth.

Are thumbsucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child's teeth?

The "dentist" answer is that thumbsucking and pacifier habits should cease by a child's first birthday. Our answer as parents ourselves is that there isn't much that can be done at three years old, particularly for children with thumb and finger sucking habits. We generally recommend stopping pacifier use by three years old, unless a child begins sucking a thumb as a replacement for the pacifier. Prolonged sucking habits result in problems that are usually easily fixed with braces or other appliances. Our approach to sucking habits is based on each individual, and we would be happy to discuss your child's habit with you.

How can I prevent decay caused by nursing?

Nursing a baby to sleep is natural, but as your child gets older it may become problematic. By your child's first birthday, we recommend that you stop nursing when your child wakes up in the middle of the night. Nursing your child to sleep or feeding during the night may allow the last sip of milk to sit on your child's teeth for hours. If your baby wakes at night, switching to a bottle with water in it may also help deter your child from waking up, since it isnt as appealing to them, and could result in more restful sleep for you and your baby in the long run.

Toothpaste: when should we begin using it and how much should we use?

Young child at dentist in palos heights

Fluoride toothpaste is safe for ALL children, and should be used as soon as the first tooth begins to erupt! Use a "smear" of toothpaste to brush the teeth of a child under two years old. This means, if you turn the brush sideways, you don't really see a "lump" of toothpaste; just enough to cover the tips of the bristles. After the second birthday, dispense a "pea-size" amount of toothpaste and perform or assist your child's toothbrushing. Remember that young children do not have the ability to brush their teeth effectively. It is expected that young children will likely swallow all of the toothpaste that is on their brush, and it is safe to swallow toothpaste in the amounts mentioned. Please keep the fun-flavored toothpaste out of your child's reach to prevent accidental ingestion.

children's dental health and habits | palos heights il dentistOral Health for Kids

The cornerstone of our practice is prevention.  If we can help you keep your child's teeth healthy, this will lead to a lower cost of dental care, fewer appointments, less time missed from school, and no anxiety regarding dental care.  Some kids tend to be more cavity prone than others.  Part of every exam includes a parent and child interview to assess hygiene practices and diet at home.  This information, combined with findings from a clinical exam, help us to determine your child's risk for developing decay in the future.  Then, we provide guidance regarding a specific cavity prevention plan based on your child's cavity risk.

Children's Dentistry in Palos Heights, IL

For children at high risk for cavities, we offer a variety of preventive services.  Some things we like to think about for our cavity-prone children:

  • More frequent cleaning intervals
  • Prescription-strength fluoride toothpaste
  • Sealants on either primary or permanent teeth
  • Diet counseling to identify behaviors that are high risk for development of cavities
  • Oral hygiene instructions, including demonstration, to improve home care


Contact Us

If you have questions about preventing cavities in your child, please contact our local office to schedule an appointment.

Studies show that dietary preferences are established very early in life, sometimes within just the first year. It is a great opportunity as a parent to provide your child with a healthy foundation that will stay with your child forever. Many products are on the market and targeted toward children that can be harmful to their teeth, including those "squeeze packs" of pureed fruit, juice boxes, and fruit snacks. We work with all of our families to give personalized recommendations for each child. Investing a little time and energy now pays huge long-term dividends for your child.

Stay Away From Juice!

Avoid giving your child juice. Avoid giving your child juice. That's not a type-o, we believe it's the most important thing you can do for babies and toddlers to prevent cavities. This includes no-sugar-added, all-natural, 100% organic juice, or whatever else the manufacturer wants to tell you to sell their product. There are no nutritional benefits to drinking fruit juice; it would be much better to eat whole fruit and drink water or milk. And sweetened beverages are the most common reason why young children get cavities.

All of our dental check-ups include diet counseling. We take the time to review your child's diet, and make specific recommendations for ways to improve to reduce the likelihood that your child will get cavities. Sometimes little changes can make a huge difference!

Your Orland Park pediatric dentist recommends cleaning your child's teeth as soon as possible. Right after birth, parents can gently clean their baby's gums with a soft toothbrush made for infants or even a clean, damp washcloth. 

Brushing your son's or daughter's teeth is essential once they start teething. Using a minimal amount of fluoride toothpaste (no bigger than a grain of rice), they can begin brushing baby teeth as soon as they emerge, twice a day. 

Your child's first teeth serve many purposes, including serving as a placeholder for permanent teeth and aiding in digestion. Even though they are temporary, it is still essential to take care of them in order to set forth healthy oral health habits.

When baby teeth are neglected or decayed, they can affect your child's nutrition and speech development. If a baby tooth falls out prematurely, it can cause the adult tooth to emerge crooked. 

Keep Your Child's Teeth Healthy

Your children's dentist, Dr. Richard Facko of Palos Heights, IL, can provide guidance or tips on how to keep your baby's smile healthy and happy. It's essential to start early, be gentle, and help promote healthy oral health habits.

Bringing your child to regular dental cleanings, even as a baby, can help them normalize the dental office and feel comfortable once their teeth start coming in. 

Bring Your Baby in for a Dental Check-In

It's never too soon to start caring for your child's oral health. Give Palos Pediatric Dentistry a call today to schedule your baby's first visit. 

Infant Oral Health in Palos Heights, IL toddler with sippy cup | Infant Oral Health in Palos Heights IL

A bottle or sippy cup is only a method of delivery, neither is inherently “bad”.  However, they both can promote bad habits.  Much more important than the bottle or sippy cup is the contents of the container.  A bottle or sippy cup with anything other than milk or water is a big no-no.  The reason is that it allows your baby to sip as she pleases, often resulting in long periods of exposure to sugared beverages.

Contact Us

Contact our local, kid-friendly office in Palos Heights, IL to learn more about how to care for your child's oral health.

baby with a few teeth | Infant Oral Care in Palos Heighs IL

Infant Oral Care in Palos Heights, IL

Caring for your infant's oral health can be challenging for new parents. I don’t have any better way to get your baby to cooperate than you do.  Here’s my advice: be consistent, don’t get frustrated, do your best.  If you’re getting the fluoride toothpaste in her mouth, you’re doing some good.  Some babies are more difficult with brushing than others, it’s just part of who we are.  If you’re really concerned, use your energy and frustration to motivate yourself to keep them away from juice and sweets.  That will more than make up for any deficiencies with tooth brushing.

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Contact our office to schedule an appointment for your child or to learn more about strategies to help with brushing your child's teeth.

Thumb sucking and pacifier use are normal for babies.  It helps to soothe them and keep them comforted.  Most babies who use a pacifier or suck a thumb do so when they are tired, sleeping, or in need of comfort.  It’s a natural thing, and I think it’s great.  Babies who are able to self-soothe tend to sleep better, are well-rested, less crabby, and interact better within their own environment.  If given the choice between a baby who sucks her thumb, sleeps well, and learns well, who might need braces because of the sucking habit, OR a baby who doesn’t suck her thumb, doesn’t sleep as well, is tired and crabby, and still might need braces (for other reasons), I think you know my answer.  Some kids do have problems that need to be corrected by the orthodontist with braces, but I wouldn’t let that worry me with my own kids.

When will this stop?

As your baby grows, you’ll probably notice she sucks her thumb less during the day.  Eventually, the habit ceases altogether.  Most thumb and pacifier habits have stopped by the time your child enters kindergarten.  For those who make it past kindergarten, I would be happy to discuss ways that you can help your child stop his habit.

child with toothache in palos heightsToothache in Kids

I find that Children’s Motrin or the generic version, ibuprofen, works best for tooth pain.  I do not prescribe narcotics for dental pain under any circumstance.  If ibuprofen is not effective at managing your child’s tooth pain, you can call my office to discuss alternatives for pain management. 

Children's Dental Emergencies

If your child is in a lot of pain, they knocked out a tooth, or their tooth pain presents as sensitivity to temperatures, then it may be a dental emergency. If that is the case, our office will be able to get your child in sooner to treat their dental pain fast.

mother and daughterI have mixed feelings about “teething”.  The research that is available today doesn’t support many of the teething complaints that parents have.  The most common finding when a baby is actually teething is an elevated temperature, maybe 99 degrees, for a day or two before the tooth breaks through the gums and lasting for a day or two afterward.  Most times this goes completely undetected by parents.  Any fever over that temperature (99 is not considered a fever) is not likely to be dental in origin.  If you have concerns about a fever, it is best to contact your pediatrician.

What about other symptoms?

The other symptoms related to teething simply aren’t supported by any research.  I am not saying that they do or don’t exist, but I do feel that they are often overstated.  If your baby seems to be having a difficult time with teething, I recommend one of those teething rings that you can keep in the freezer.  If you feel that your baby needs more comfort than that, ask your pediatrician if you can use Tylenol.  Don’t give your baby any topical anesthetic such as Orajel.  It’s a drug, just like Tylenol, except it isn’t dosed by weight.  Although rare, there have been cases of babies having too much Orajel and getting sick.  Not to mention it doesn’t seem to be an effective treatment anyway.


When should I begin brushing my baby’s teeth?

I always recommend that you begin brushing your baby’s teeth as soon as the first tooth erupts.  Don’t start brushing your baby’s teeth, start brushing your baby’s tooth! Because there’s only a tooth or two, it only takes a few seconds.  But, it’s important to remove plaque from your baby’s teeth, and it also teaches them very early on what a toothbrush is and what it’s used for.  It will quickly become part of your baby’s routine.  Before long, you’ll have a three-year-old who is reminding you that you forgot to brush his teeth!

What kind of toothbrush should I use?

There’s a whole shelf full of baby toothbrushes, but simpler is usually better.  I like the silicone brushes as a “toy”, but not as your baby’s real toothbrush.  I always recommend a regular nylon-bristled toothbrush, similar to the one adults use but in a miniature size.  I don’t feel comfortable with kids running around the house with a real toothbrush in their mouth, so if your baby wants a brush to play with I would use the silicone variety as a toothbrush toy.

What kind of toothpaste should I use?

This used to be a risk versus benefit question, and the old answer was to use fluoride toothpaste for “high-risk” babies.  Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to identify at such a young age who is really at high-risk for cavities.  As a result, I recommend using fluoride toothpaste as soon as the first tooth erupts.  For babies, I recommend a “smear” of toothpaste – just enough to cover the tips of the bristles.  The benefit of using fluoride toothpaste to strengthen enamel outweighs the risk of such a small amount of ingested fluoride toothpaste.

When it comes to fluoride toothpaste, they’re almost all created equal.  Both kids and adult fluoride toothpaste contains 1000ppm fluoride.  The main difference is the flavor, and some adult toothpaste contains additives for whitening, sensitivity, etc.  I would recommend finding a flavor that seems pleasing to your child.  Then keep it out of her reach so she doesn’t get a hold of it when you’re not looking.

When do we begin flossing?

I don’t typically recommend floss for babies.  Focus on brushing twice per day with a smear of fluoride toothpaste.  We’ll get to that when they get older.


children's dentistry | palos heights il dentist Infant Oral Health in Palos Heights, IL

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that your child sees a dentist by their first birthday.

Your Child's First Visit

There are several reasons for your child to have their first visit at such an early age. First, it allows us to review healthy feeding practices and oral hygiene. It also allows your child to experience the dental setting during a fast and "happy" appointment. During your child's first appointment, we typically brush their teeth with a toothbrush, perform an exam with a mirror, and apply fluoride. Lastly, visiting the dentist at such an early age really gets kids on the right track and establishes a “dental home” for your child so they can feel comfortable and confident in future dental visits.

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